Anzhi Makhachkala were set to be the new Chelsea, or the new Manchester City, or even to compete with fellow nouveau riche Paris Saint-Germain. After billionaire Suleyman Kerimov took over the club in January 2011, it became clear that he had designs on making the club one of the most powerful in the world, spending over $200m on players. But after Kerimov suffered a financial loss of over $300m at the beginning of August, it seemed clear that cost-cutting measures were in order for Anzhi. Club president Konstantin Remchukov used his Twitter account to announce that the budget would be cut to between $50m – $70m per year. Other clubs took notice, thinking that perhaps they might snap up star players at a bargain price.
One of those players is Brazilian midfielder Willian. Willian first came into prominence with Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk, playing in the side that beat Werder Bremen to lift the UEFA Cup in 2009. He went on to feature in three seasons of Champions League play, making his presence known with a brace against AS Roma in the Round of 16 in the 2010-2011 tournament, and then scoring twice against Chelsea in the group stages last year. In addition to winning the UEFA Cup with Shakhtar, Willian helped the club to four domestic titles and three domestic cup wins.
Is it any wonder, then, that newly-flush Anzhi came calling in January 2013? They secured his services for a hefty fee, estimated to be about $45m. But after just half a season in Russia, Willian is back on the transfer market. And the big names are sniffing around, including Manchester City, Chelsea, and Tottenham Hotspur.
It’s thought that Manchester City are the ones most likely to bring Willian to England, with reports stating the Citizens have already lodged a £35m ($54m) bid. But despite Anzhi’s new cost-cutting measures, it’s believed that the club are not desperate to sell their stars, and will refuse offers they feel inadequate for their current players. And with City having already spent almost £100 on the likes of another former Shakhtar star, Fernandinho, along with Stevan Jovetic, Jesus Navas and Alvaro Negredo, they may be unwilling to up their bid for Willian.
Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.
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Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”
Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:
“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.
“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.
Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.
[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]
Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.
Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)
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Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.
That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.
One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.
[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]
Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.
Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.